About Social Hiking
In a nutshell, Social Hiking is a geo-blogging tool designed to let you share your adventures with others live as you are doing them!
How It Works
Social Hiking collects your location and creates a map of your route live. But that is not all - Social Hiking also then collects information from other sites to include on your map - for example from Twitter (with threaded conversations), Instagram, Audioboo, Flickr and Bambuser. This media does not need to be geo-tagged - Social Hiking will attempt to add it to the map using just the timestamps!
You can setup as many of these linked accounts as you want - you can even include tweets from other people out with you! In general, Social Hiking will try and add everything available from each account onto your maps - the only exception is Twitter (as you don't necessarily want all your tweets added), so you can specify a hashtag (for example #sh) to include in the tweets you want included.
The only thing you need is a location source - Social Hiking supports:
- ViewRanger - an outdoor GPS app (available on Symbian, Android and iPhone) which is a unique mapping (with national maps such as Ordnance Survey), navigation, tracking and information tool for mobiles.
- SPOT Satellitte Messenger - premium devices which uses satellites direct to share your location across the globe
- YellowBrick - premium devices which use Iridium satellites direct to share your location anywhere on Earth
- Delorme - premium devices which use satellites direct to share your location anywhere on Earth
- Geo-tagged media (currently just Twitter and FourSquare) - create a map of your adventure using just Social Media
- GPX uploads - share you route when you get home by importing the GPX track recorded by your GPS. Social Hiking will still attempt to link your media sent during your adventure to your map.
View and Share Maps
There are a number of ways you can view and share your maps. The main way to display your map is on a Google Map - you can set the initial view you want (terrain, roads, satellite, satellite 3D (Google Earth) or hybrid (satellite and roads) or in the UK an Ordnance Survey map. Each map has it's own url which you can share with friends. If you have your own blog or website you can also easily embed your maps.
As your map updates, visitors to your map will also see your route update before them (no page refresh required).
Each map you create can either be publically visible to the world or only visible to you - although you can set a default privacy setting, this can be changed for each map. Although all your data is stored in GMT, you can set a separate timezone for each map to make sure all the relevant beacons are pulled out of the database (again you can also set a default timezone). You can also set a title and description for each map.
If you are doing a route across several days, you can create a multi-day route. A multi-day route takes all the beacons between your start and end date and combines them to create a single map for your whole route. Again these routes can have their own timezones, privacy setting, title and description.
Each user on Social Hiking has their own username (this can be different to your Twitter and ViewRanger usernames) and profile page, containing some basic information about them, a bio, and a list of your public maps.
History of Social Hiking
In April 2010, a friend (@winkysmileyface) and I (@daylightgambler) undertook an epic adventure to walk the Offa’s Dyke National Trail (a 177-mile walk that weaves in and out of the England – Wales border, from Chepstow on the Severn Estuary to Prestatyn on the North Wales coast) in aid of MS Society.
For the challenge, I wanted to have some way that friends, family and anyone else interested, could follow our progress and stay involved. I have used ViewRanger for a number of years for mobile mapping and as an outdoor GPS, and ideally I wanted some way of linking the BuddyBeacon feature with social media sites such as Twitter.
ViewRanger, who were sponsors of our challenge, quickly developed an API for BuddyBeacon which allowed access to the location data - from this it was only a short step to create Social Hiking (I am a web developer by profession!)
Since starting, Social Hiking has expanded to support Instamapper and SPOT. Other than a location source, Social Hiking does not require any specific software. It takes social media data direct from your account, so no specific client is required, and there is no need to use (battery intensive) geo-tagging.
For Offa's Dyke - Social Hiking was a huge success. We found we had a regular group of people following our progress and interacting with us, which really helped us keep going. We were getting links to local information and history, met a friend of a follower who lived on the route, and most amazing of all had a surprise visit from a friend who tracked us down using the map on her iPhone.
Social Hiking was originally only intended for personal use only, but it was picked up on by Phil Turner (@PhilOutdoors), an outdoor blogger who had been looking for a similar solution, and he convinced me to set it up to be used by others.